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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Garbage contract debate rages to conclusion

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/9/20

ELY – After more than a year of debate, Ely City Council members last week unanimously approved the recommendations of the sanitation committee to award contracts for commercial waste disposal …

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Garbage contract debate rages to conclusion

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ELY – After more than a year of debate, Ely City Council members last week unanimously approved the recommendations of the sanitation committee to award contracts for commercial waste disposal in the city to two companies, G-Men Environmental Services and Northern Routes Rolloff.
The competition began when a local major business owner voiced unhappiness with not having convenient refuse service available. First the sanitation committee, and eventually the full council, agreed to make commercial service hauling available to multiple providers as a way to provide more options for commercial customers.
Currently, all city trash service is provided exclusively by G-Men, and that firm will continue to provide residential service on an exclusive basis.
The new commercial contracts will take effect Nov. 1, pending the submission of all required paperwork. That issue of the required paperwork, in particular, the lack of verifiable insurance and bonding which is a requirement of the application process, drew pushback from a competing refuse hauling company and a council member.
Jeremiah Day, owner of G-Men in Ely, addressed the council during the “request to appear” portion of the agenda at the Sept. 1 council meeting. He noted that the request for proposal application details required that all applicants must show the ability to procure insurance and a bond in the amount of $100,000.
“I want to point out that G-Men fulfills all the requirements in our proposal and we have for the past year and will continue to do so as required in our residential contract,” Day said. “I also want to point out that the (Minnesota) secretary of state does not have the other proposed business registered in the state.”
Northern Routes did not provide the required liability insurance information in their proposal and was not registered with the Secretary of State’s office at the time of their application.
Council member Heidi Omerza also questioned the incomplete contract proposal application from Northern Routes.
“When we look through hires’ applications, if all the requirements are not met, if they don’t take the time to investigate what is needed, we generally just throw (the applications) out,” she said.
“I am a little concerned about the fact that we have a lot of requirements that we are legally held to as a city when it comes to sanitation,” she added. “I was assured that when we got to the end of this process, I would feel comfortable with the end result, and I still have a lot more questions than I have answers. What assurances do I have with one complete application or request for proposal and one that is partially done? How do I know, by what date, will we have all the (requested information) fulfilled?”
Council member and sanitation committee member Paul Kess noted that the contract application calls for all requirements to be in place by that commencement date of the contract on Nov. 1.
City Attorney Kelly Klun stated that the contract calls for the contractor to furnish, within 15 days of the city’s request, a copy of a statement of valid bond.
“Nov. 1 is the day the contract begins,” she said. “If the council agrees, the 15-day window starts tonight when the contracts are approved. There is no ambiguity that the bond must be in place when the contract begins.”
Klun added, “I think we should have some assurance that the bonding will be in place. Within 15 days we will need assurance from an insurance agent or the bond.”
Mayor Chuck Novak suggested the motion to approve the contract proposals include the stipulation that Secretary of State registration also be in place when the contract commences.
“This has been an evolving situation,” Novak said. “I will reserve a lot of my comments on how we got to this point. How we got here is problematic in my mind but that is in the past. We are here today.”
Omerza continued to voice reservations. “I’ve had some sleepless nights over this, a lot of sleepless nights,” she said. This whole process has bothered me to no end. I am going to support this and I will probably lose more sleep over supporting it, but I am doing it because we have a good provider. And I’m convinced that our good provider will continue to provide both on the residential and on the commercial side. I have no skin in this game whatsoever. I cannot reiterate how important it is that when we put out requests for proposals, applications, or anything else, you need to fill out the paperwork and you need to do what we say. I feel like we are sliding backward on this one.”
According to rate information submitted as part of their respective proposals, Northern Routes will charge $12.50 per yard, while G Men set a rate of $13.60 per yard. The contract includes requirements related to pick up procedures, equipment, maintenance of vehicles, provision of storage carts, and insurance and bonding.
“We have an obligation to follow what we agreed to as a council,” Novak said. “This is not the time to change our mind. At this point we are bound to move forward on this motion. I still have heartache as to why we got to this point. And we can talk about that ‘til the cows come home, but it ain’t going to do any good. We are here where we are.”
The motion passed unanimously. Clearly upset with the proceedings, Day stormed out of the council chambers.

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